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Modeling a Pantograph


A pantograph is a simple mechanical device that uses two pens to copy

and enlarge or reduce drawings or maps. Thomas Jefferson made one,
hoping he could use it to write more than one letter at a time. In this
activity, youll do a very simple construction that does what a pantograph does. Then, if youre brave and if you have enough time, youll
construct a model that more closely resembles a physical pantograph.
Sketch and Investigate
1. Construct fAB.

2. Construct point C on
fAB, beyond point B.

3. Select points B and C;

then, in the Display
menu, turn on Trace
Select points A and
B; then, in the
Measure menu,
choose Distance.
Repeat for AC.
Double-click on a
measurement to
activate the
calculator. Click
once on a
measurement to
enter it into a

4. Drag point B to write your name.

5. Measure AB and AC.
6. Calculate AB/AC.
7. Draw something with point B. Notice that point C moves on the ray
so that the ratio AB/AC stays constant.
8. Move point C to make a different ratio. Experiment drawing things
with point B using different ratios.
Q 1 What does the ratio have to do with the traces of points B and C?

An actual, physical pantograph is constructed of rigid material, such as

strips of wood. These pieces dont stretch the way a dynamic Sketchpad
ray does. So an actual pantograph depends on linkages that make it
The following pages describe a construction that models a physical

Chapter 9: Similarity

Exploring Geometry 1999 Key Curriculum Press 189

Modeling a Pantograph (continued)

Modeling an Actual Pantograph

Hold the mouse

button down on the
Segment tool to
show the Straight
Objects palette.
Drag right to choose
Select point C and
sAB ; then, in the
Construct menu,
choose Circle By

9. In a new sketch, construct sAB.

(This is not part of the
pantograph, but its a control
segment that will make parts of
your pantograph both rigid and


10. Construct fCD.

11. Construct a circle with center

point C and radius AB.
12. Construct a circle with center
point D and radius AB.

Steps 915

13. Construct point E at one

intersection of these circles. (If the circles dont intersect, drag point
D until they do.)
14. Construct fCE.
15. Construct sDE.
16. Hide the circles.
17. Construct sEF on fCE.
Select point F
and sDE; then, in
the Construct
menu, choose
Parallel Line.

18. Construct a line

through point F
parallel to sDE.



19. Construct a line

through point D
parallel to fCE.
20. Construct point G
where these lines

Steps 1621

21. Construct point H at the intersection of dFG and fCD.

190 Exploring Geometry 1999 Key Curriculum Press

Chapter 9: Similarity

22. Hide fCE, fCD, dFG, and dDG.

23. Construct sCE, sFG, sDG, and

sGH. This is something like
what a real pantograph
looks like.



Chapter 9: Similarity

Exploring Geometry 1999 Key Curriculum Press 191

Modeling a Pantograph (continued)

After you draw sCD,
choose Display:
Line Weight:
Dashed .

24. Construct sCD and sDH and make these segments dashed. These
segments wouldnt appear on a real pantograph, but they can help
you see how a pantograph works.
25. Drag point D to observe how the pantograph behaves. Note that it
falls apart if you drag point D too far from point C. You can extend
its range by lengthening sAB.
26. Turn on Trace
Points for points D
and H.

This may take

several tries.
Experiment with
different starting
places for point D. If
necessary, make sAB
longer and move
point F farther from
point E.

27. Drag point D to

trace out your


28. Move point F, then

drag point D to see
how the location of
point F affects the
trace of point H.

Q 2 How would you locate point F so that the trace of point H was twice
as large as the trace of point D? Use similar triangles to explain why.

Explore More
1. Build an actual pantograph out of old rulers, small bolts, and
wing nuts.

192 Exploring Geometry 1999 Key Curriculum Press

Chapter 9: Similarity

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